Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Sooners and Boomers By Nan O'Berry

One of the greatest American Adventure and a culmination of the Manifest Destiny Doctrine developed in the year 1889. At noon, on April 22, over 50,000 people lined along the border of Oklahoma in order to have a chance at two million acres. Those who undertook the homesteads had to live on the land and make improvements for at least five years. The question might be why was this land so prized? 
                                            Wikipedia Land Rush Photo of  1889

To understand, we must travel back in history to 1862, then President Abraham Lincoln, presented the idea of the yeomen farmer which had been the backbone of Jefferson’s Democracy. This idea would yield to the small family farmer start up land to grow crops on good soil. So many small farmers had seen their dreams crushed by larger wealthy plantations in the south who could use slave labor to increase their wealth. Remember land rich/money poor??? 

Those who were being forced out had a large voice in Congress such as Andrew Johnson (17th President), Horace Greeley (go west, young man) and George Henry Evans (radical reformer and union man), all who wanted to liberalize or open public lands to those disenfranchised. Not such a bad idea. All they had to do to get around 165 acres was to follow a three-step procedure. 

1.      File for an Application
2.      Improve the land aka housing, crops, cattle etc
3.      File for a patent

This was open to any citizen who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government, freed slaves and women included, who were at least 21 years of age or head of a household It doesn’t sound so bad. However, the land being eyed for this venture didn’t quite belong to the government.

Let’s go back again… this time to 1830 – The election of ole Andy Jackson which began the removal of Native Americans from their land and the forced march known as the Trail of Tears. These Native Americans were all gathered on land deemed unwanted in the Oklahoma Territory. Tribes such as the Choctaw, Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Seminole, Quapaw, Seneca, Shawnee, Kickapoo, Delaware, Caddo, Kiowa, Comanche, Wyandot, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Wichita, all were given land divided up, no thought given to long held differences etc. and told to live happily as farmers instead of warriors. 

All seemed to be going just peachy until over population in the East and the end of the no so civil, Civil War. Now, people were on the move. They needed some place to go - aka Oklahoma. By the year of 1879 over 30 bills were in Congress to open lands that had been bargained for, weaseled, and in some cases, down-right stolen. Once the final date was set, people gathered all hungry for that piece of American Pie.

So how do we know what’s a Sooner or a Boomer?

Sooners were those who went in, hid until the appointed time then quickly filed a claim.
Boomers were those who took advantage of the movement by settling, starting towns, selling plots to make money and moving on.

So, back to April 22, the land appropriation bill declared noon to be the starting time the border would open. Military, dignitaries, and troops gathered for a gun shot that signaled the opening. People surged forth to claim their lands. By the evening of this day both Oklahoma City and Guthrie would go from nothing to having ten thousand citizens on record. 

I’m thinking this would make a great backdrop for a romance series.

Until Next time, happy trails,

1 comment:

Licha said...

Wow, this is so very interesting! Thank you for sharing this article and the pictures. Have a Great week. God Bless you.